Re: Goo prophylaxis

Eric Watt Forste (
Tue, 02 Sep 1997 11:26:23 -0700

Nicholas Bostrom writes:
> Yes, but competing *biological* life forms. It hasn't evolved to
> compete with nanites.

Nanites haven't evolved to compete with anything. In fact,
nanites don't exist yet. Neither does AI, which would be
necessary in some form for these things to be serious threats.
Extrapolating multiple interacting fundamental advances in
several different fields of technology (e. g. nanotechnology
*and* artificial intelligence) may be fun, but that doesn't
mean we're going to be very good at it.

It sounds as if you are attempting to make an a priori case for
believing that "nanites" will outcompete (in biological terms!)
biological organisms. I don't think a priori methods are very
useful in dealing with these kinds of things. The best we could
do right now, probably, is to open a claim on the Foresight Exchange,
something like "Homo sapiens will be biologically extinct (no more
phenotypes from unmodified Homo sap genomes) by 2050." and see what
odds the market puts on that claim. This claim would stimulate
research into the areas you are concerned with, because for someone
to speculate successfully on this claim, they'd have to research
the particular issues you are raising. But the person who registers
the claim is going to look pretty crass: here's an opportunity for
individualist curmudgeons to do something useful with their disdain
for social opinion.

> What about the step from highly optimized designs to very highly
> optimized designs? By then we should have AI. And very highly
> optimised attack will almost certainly win over merely highly
> optimised defense.

You may well be right about this. That's why if I were working
in this field, I would be working on defense technologies
(which is what all military-research folks always *claim* to be
working on anyway, especially if they are spending other people's
money, e. g. taxes), rather than optimizing attack technologies.
Fortunately, all medical research is evolving into a
generalized study of real defense technology. ;)

If defense designs are kept one generation ahead of offensive
designs, then your last scenario won't come to pass. If the
next decade is fairly peaceful, then defense designs might just
stay out in front of offense designs. I still think there will
be some pretty good careers ahead for those who are interested
in figuring out how to amp up the human immune system to deal
with all the new threats emanating from the human nervous
system (where our technologies come from).

Oh, yeah, and the principle of comparative advantage. I'm
starting to feel that "the principle of comparative advantage"
is my personal "Carthago delenda est" in all these discussions
of future fearsome military competitions between human beings
and their technological offspring. The only threat I see here
is stupidity. Anyone with half a brain and the patience to
spend a few months of eir life studying modern economics can
see that initiating warfare is almost always idiocy. That
doesn't mean we won't have military idiots to contend with, but
it does mean that it's unlikely those military idiots will be
much smarter than us, regardless of whether they are chordates,
uploads, or abacuses. If they will be so smart, then they
won't be confused by the principle of comparative advantage,

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd